Just when it appears the 76ers are about to recover from their Nov. 11 meltdown, the team that forced it invades the Wells Fargo Center.
The Golden State Warriors took a commanding 135-114 decision in the teams' previous meeting at Oracle Arena in Oakland. The game was knotted at 74 with 7 minutes, 40 seconds left in the third quarter after 18 lead changes and eight ties. But the defending NBA champions Warriors (11-4) responded with a 20-4 run to take a commanding lead en route to their sixth straight blowout victory.
The Sixers have been looking forward to Saturday night's rematch ever since.
"We will be better prepared," swingman Robert Covington said after the game. "We have an idea how they are going to play. And we are [going to make] it be a different outcome."
Time will tell.
The Sixers (8-6) have had impressive victories — a 109-105 decision over the Los Angeles Clippers (Monday) and a 115-109 win against the Lakers (Wednesday) – since the loss to the Warriors. However, looking good against two sub-.500 squads is much different from doing it against the league's second-best team.
As good as the Sixers looked against the Clippers and Lakers, their transition defense was equally woeful against Golden State. The Warriors shot 51.9 percent (14 for 27) on three-pointers. That percentage and the margin of victory could have been higher. However, Golden State coach Steve Kerr basically started resting his starters at the end of the third quarter. Even still, the Warriors had a commanding 26-point cushion with 7 minutes, 40 seconds remaining.
By that time, Kevin Durant had already cooled off on the bench. The 6-foot-11 forward finished with 29 points on 11-for-18 shooting – including 3 for 6 on three-pointers – in 28 minutes of action. The all-star sat out the fourth quarter.
The Warriors' other all-stars also shined. Guard Klay Thompson made 4 of 6 three-pointers en route to 23 points. Stephen Curry added 22 points and hit 3 of 8 threes. Like Durant, Curry sat out the final quarter. And forward Draymond Green finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, and 5 blocks.
Meanwhile, Sixers standouts Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons had subpar performances. Simmons had 13 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, and 4 turnovers. The point guard shot just 6 for 17 from the field. Embiid scored 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting and had seven rebounds and seven turnovers.
"I have to give credit to the team defense," Embiid said of the Warriors' applying pressure on him. "I felt like it wasn't a one-on-one basketball type of game."
Embiid has been more aggressive since the setback. He recorded 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocks against the Lakers.
So it will be interesting to see what he and the Sixers do against the Warriors this time around.
Swingman Justin Anderson is sidelined because of shin splints, the team said.
Also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), shin splints refers to pain in the shins characterized by inflammation surrounding the tibia.
Anderson, who is averaging 5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 12.6 minutes per game this season, will be reevaluated in approximately three weeks.